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Sketching User Experiences, Getting the design right and the right design – Bill Buxton March 7, 2012

Posted by Sebastian Fuenzalida in Sketching User Experiences.

The first time I saw the cover of this book, I wondered: “Why that guy is rowing through a graph?” but in second thoughts, that is not a graph, is more like mountains reflecting in the water.  After a couple of pages into the book, my mystery was revealed: it was a map!

This book is divided in two parts: “Design as a Dreamcatcher” where the author developed a framework to incorporate design into product development processes and “Stories of Methods and Madness”, were we are presented with several techniques to implement the visual thinking required to make the integration in part 1.

Bill Buxton made a great introduction to thinking out-of-the-box in “Design for the wild” were we are prompted to think about good solutions to help a kayaker to navigate in artic waters. Without losing his path. Immediately,  I started to think about applications for iOS/Android with maps and routes GPS-enabled. The problem here is that I’m biased by my past and education and I was not thinking in the real environment were this product would be used. Extreme cold temperatures wont let you take off your gloves, so how can you manipulate the touching screen?  Yes, there are new gloves with special materials that let you use your touch screen but that is really what we need while rowing in artic waters? The Ammassalik, a tribe in eastern Greenland, crafted a beautiful solution and it is showed in the cover of the book. A 3D map who represents the coastline, they can be used inside mittens, keeping the hands warm, they float if they fall in the water, because they are made out of wood and most importantly, they do not need batteries nor GPS connections made them 100% reliable, making it better than any digital product we can think at this moment.

Buxton after showing us several cases were incremental solutions or “n+1” products cannot sustain a company in the long term, he introduced a New Product Development Process (showed in the picture above) in order to catalyze innovation in companies who want to survive strategically launching new products often.

Particularly identifiable is the funnel-shaped design phase, but using this scope we can see the collaboration between the different departments of the company along the complete process.

This brings me to the underlying objective of this book:

…to change the unviability of implementing a reliable way to develop new products in-house, within the corporate culture, tailored to the strategic plan of the company, in a managed (rather than bandit) process and where we can be take into account the technologies employed in the rest of the product offerings …

After several design thinking and innovation classes, I’m a complete advocate of that objective.  My problem is related with my learning style, I’m a converger, and its is hard to transform (in my head) the process, sketching and diverging into a process, where you get an innovative solution as output. The process is still a “black-box” for me, and this book does not clarify it for me.

At the same time, the book really helps to let you know the tools that designers (trained as designers) use in their daily works. The problem is  that they seem to be too design-ish oriented in my point of view.  Let me show you a couple of examples extracted from the second part: “Stories of Methods and Madness”.

  • Wizard of Oz: Technique were the design team imitates the automatic processes realized by a final system, without need to implement it completely.
  • Visual Storytelling:  Making storyboards to represent User Experiences.
  • Extending Interaction: Real and Illusion: High-Fi Paper prototypes to show interaction to the  future users.

All of them need to have a profound level of technical designing skills, specially making storyboards, which make me doubt about my possibilities to be a designer some day, because I’m really bad drawing. This contrast with the Design Thinking concept introduced by Tim Brown in his book “Change by Design” where everyone could be a designer.

To finish my blog post I want to add a “new” technique called Mechanical Turk, which is strongly related with Wizard of Oz. The term was coined as reference to the Mechanical Turk-Chess player, showed in the picture.

At that moment there was not IBM Watson to play chess with humans, to process real-time movements and strategy, that is why instead the used a hidden human who played mimic the movements of the robot.  Nowadays this technique of “getting human intelligence” into real problems that computers cannot solve is used by Amazon to crowdsource little tasks like tagging pictures or identifying handwriting.

My final thoughts are: can we use crowdsourcing to generate Fast-cheap “Wizard of Oz” prototypes?  And What is the role of managerial – engineering  professionals in the design process?


Best phone manual ever February 7, 2012

Posted by Sebastian Fuenzalida in Uncategorized.

I found this video which presents a really good user centered design.